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What Has Surprised Me So Far on This Alzheimer's Journey

Mom’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease began just over two years ago. She was having trouble talking, as she would say. She would want to say something and the word wouldn’t come out or the wrong one would come out instead. We were at her hearing aid appointment and saw a poster advertising speech therapy to help with just that. I didn’t know it was a thing. They called it 'word finding'.

Working with a speech therapist

Lindsay, the speech therapist, works with people of all ages. She works with stroke victims and young preschool children and every age and issue in between. She taught Mom (and me) strategies to give her time and a way to get around the verbal log jam.

There is an irony in how this disease has affected her. That is my first surprise. Mom has always been a talker. She always tells the story of how she started first grade at 5 at her Mississippi country school because she was hanging out there all the time anyway. Mom was living across the street from the one room school house, with her parents and grandmother in the rooms behind her name sake’s country store, while her uncles were off to war. She often got in trouble for talking.

The last road trip we took the summer after Dad died, she started talking when we got in the car. I kid you not, that woman did not stop talking the two and half days it took to get down to Mississippi from Buffalo, NY, the week we were there, and the two and a half days back! It was stunning! She was happy and in her element. That was five years ago. Three years later, we were sitting in the therapists office.

What Mom remembers vs what she forgets

The things Mom remembers and what she forgets surprises me. She doesn’t remember her favorite chocolate bar is Ritter Sport’s Dark Chocolate Marzipan. She has always been so happy to receive the bright, red square. We always put it in her stocking, Easter basket, with every Mother’s Day and birthday present.

Mom's first Ritter Sport was when we lived in Germany when Dad was stationed there in the 1970s. If I run across it at a store I would bring her one, just because. She would ration it, nibbling one square at a time, so her blood sugar won’t go through the roof. The other day, I got her some other dark chocolate candy bar with marzipan and told her I though she would like it because she liked Ritter Sport so much. She just looked at me blankly. She did’t know what I was talking about. I don’t know what I’m going to do if she gives me that same blank look, not knowing who I am.

It’s surprising that the things you think you would never forget are the things that go, but then some little detail sticks with you. There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason as to what stays or goes, and it changes until it doesn’t anymore. For now, we take it as it comes and enjoy what we have, and enjoy the pleasant surprises that come.

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